Thursday, July 23, 2009

Old Friends

Norma and I

A couple of weeks ago I received a call from my friend Neal. His wife Tillie has had heart surgery, and Neal had decided that he should move from the ends of the earth in eastern Oklahoma to a retirement community near Oklahoma City. He felt that they needed to be nearer their doctors, and emergency medical care. He had made arrangements for his son to come and help them move.

I have known Neal for 10 years. He moved to this area after he retired. He bought acreage in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma where he and his family built a house. Neal would have been a great homesteader, as he is very self sufficient. He actually went to New Mexico as a young man to try and claim a homestead. He didn't get the homestead, but he did find Tillie. He and Tillie were instrumental in starting La Vida Mission for the Navajo people of northwestern New Mexico.

The property of La Vida Mission was once an abandoned trading post. In this one-room trading post, the little mission was born. School was held for six students in the crumbling, mice-infested building by Neal and Tillie Scott, who lived in the school building with their two tiny sons, Steven and Tom. Each day Tillie drove the rutted reservation roads to pick up her students, then returned them to their hogans at the end of the day.

Neal and Tillie started their married life with a passion for missions and decided that they would follow wherever God led them. During over 30 years of ministry they worked in many places including Jamaica, Mexico and Africa. Neal was a printer by trade, and he managed printing presses in many places. Tillie was a school teacher and always found ways to help others wherever they were. She always had a special place in her heart for kids, from those Navajo Indians at La Vida Mission where her mission work started to the kids of Africa. Her and Neal adopted two children from Africa and brought them back to the U.S. when they retired.

Even in retirement Neal still had a passion for missions and helping others. He was a local volunteer fireman and helped those in his community however he could. He spent several months after Hurricane Katrina helping in a relief distribution warehouse in south Louisiana.

When Neal called me that Thursday, there was a sense of urgency in his voice. He said, "I hate to ask you this, but I didn't know who else to ask. I feel strongly that I need to get Tillie to the retirement village this weekend. She has had a small stroke, and the doctors say you never know if there will be another one. My son won't be able to come for few weeks. Would you be able to help us move this weekend."

I told Neal that we would be over Sunday morning to help them move. Daddy and I got up early Sunday morning and were at Neal's place before 8 o'clock. When we looked at what needed to be moved and then looked at my pickup we began to wonder if we could get it all on. I knew that if anyone could it would be my Daddy.

We were able to put in my little S-10 pickup, 2 beds, a large dresser, bedding, chairs, clothes, kitchen appliances, and a microwave. We were also able to find places for a number of cases of canned food they had. We definitely looked like Okie's and Arkie's. It made me think of the Grapes of Wrath or maybe the Beverly Hillbillies. As we left for the 200 mile trip to the retirement village, we had to stop at the first gas station with air to pump up the tires on my little truck. There was way more weight on the truck than it was designed for. We took it easy on the trip over, because the 4 cylinder engine had a hard time going more that 55 mph. As we drove, Neal kept me entertained with the story of how he and Tillie met, and the early years at La Vida Mission.

After about 4 hours we pulled into the Summit Ridge Retirement Village. Neal and Tillie were moving into a small but nice 1 bedroom apartment. Even though they won't have the room they are used to and the wide open spaces, they will be so much safer with people nearby to help if there is a medical emergency. There is a beautiful church right across the street from their apartment.

While we were unloading the pickup and moving things into the house, I called the Summit Ridge Retirement Village office to find out where an old friend lived. I knew that Norma Wolters was living there and wanted to visit with her while were were there. I was surprised to find out that she lived in the duplex next door to where Neal's apartment was. Daddy and I were able to spend a few minutes with her before we had to make the long trip back home.

I first met Norma when she was teaching school at the B.J. Rowland Adventist School in Mena. When the school opened in the late 70's she was the first teacher. The school was a one room schoolhouse with grades 1-8. My brother and sisters were students of Norma's. She retired the year my daughter Cynda started school at that little school. It was great to see Norma and do a little reminiscing.

The next morning, Neal and Tillie were going to drive into town to get some things at the grocery store. Before they had gone two miles they turned around and went back to the apartment because the roads were icing up. Before long they were completely iced in.

I was so thankful that Neal and Tillie were in a safe place where help was available if they needed it. Their place out in the woods was completely iced in, and there would have been no way to get help if they needed it. I think that God nudged Neal that Thursday and impressed him that he needed to be in a safe place before the ice storm hit. I believe that God is concerned with every detail of our lives, and that if we listen he will guide us.

It was great to be able to help an old friend and to feel that he had the security of being in a safe place. It was also nice to visit an old friend that I hadn't seen for a number of years.

I like the lyrics of the Chris Eaton song "Old Friends".

Old Friends -- we'll always be
And Heaven is a perfect place
At the journey's end
And I'm looking forward to that day
Cause we're old friends

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